Something’s been bugging me about the E-Myth…
Don’t get me wrong, Michael Gerber is clearly a very smart guy, who’s added a lot to the discussion and advancement of small business systems and success. Most people who start businesses are artists, technicians or thinkers who are passionate about a particular subject area, but are often less passionate and far less skilled at the process of growing a business.
And, for so many, that leads to some combination of passion-workers taking on business roles they neither want, nor are good at, leading to unhappiness, and, often, business demise.
Gerber’s solution, in his E-Myth books and programs, has been largely to scale back to doing what you’re good at and build systems and recruit people to handle what you hate doing and very likely bad at. In doing so, you gain the potential to reap the financial rewards and freedom that come from scaling a businesses beyond the limits of your own special abilities and interests.
Sounds great. In fact, I’ve built, grown and sold a few small businesses this way myself, the last one allowed me to work maybe 5-10 hours a week, while drawing a substantial income.
But, as I get a little older, something’s been bugging me about this model…
And, it really came to a head during a conversation I had with a friend down at SXSW in Austin last year. At the time, he was the co-founder of small, virtual design and interactive consulting company. At a little over 30 years old, married, but with no kids, his goal was to figure out how to scale his company as quickly as possible, taking on more clients, employees, physical space and becoming a big name with substantial operations.
As he spoke of his vision, I began to giggle and he asked why…
I said, “I’ve already started and grown a few companies, with leases, employees, overhead and more. And, now in my 40s, my biggest quest is to figure out how to continue to do what I love, grow my income, but dramatically reduce my level of daily complexity, overhead, management and…stress.”
It was a bit of a pivotal moment for me, because I knew I’d likely be selling my own company soon (which happened in December of 2008) and this realization would mean approaching the next leg of my adventure in a very different way.
Because, I don’t want to be rich…I want to be “Simply” Rich.
You see, no matter how good my colleagues, management team or employees were, how capable my advisers were or how good a lease I had, as the head of a business, I was still the guy with his bank account and reputation on the line, with the responsibility to serve my community of both clients and employees. And, if you truly care about your business, all the systems in the world won’t relieve the mental burden of traditional, systems and people-driven growth.
And, I happen to be unusually risk tolerant. I’ve been an entrepreneur the better part of my life. I’ve won big and failed big and recovered enough times to know I can survive both. So the exposure isn’t really the issue for me. Nor is fear of failure.
It’s more about reaching a time in my life where “size” doesn’t really matter…
That’s not how I measure my worth, impact or success. It’s more about:
- Building a substantial living around the activities, people and settings that make me come alive
- While reducing complexity, management, oversight and overhead as much as possible
I call this approach, “Simplicity-Driven Entrepreneurship™ (SDE).”
It’s about scaling my talent in a way that gives me the “consistent revenue” of a well-structured, systems and people based company, without the ever-present subconcious din of actually being the final word for everything that happens in that company. Some people love that din, I used to. And, heck, maybe I will again down the road. But, right now, not so much.
So, as I begin moving into my next great business adventure, I’m seriously considering a very different approach to growing my living. A way to leverage and scale a particular talent or passion that has the potential to generate substantial revenue, but not take on the same overhead and management burden of growing yet another traditional company.
Simplicity Driven Entrepreneurship is about scaling talent, without scaling complexity.
A key different between the SDE approach to entrepreneurship and the systems/people approach is the way you scale your talent or passion. Rather than scaling vertically and building a company with systems, levels and people around you to do the jobs you don’t want to do or are just plain bad at, you scale vertically and look for ways to keep the “business” as small and simple as possible.
You get hyper-creative and work, instead, to leverage your assets and passion in a way that allows for a substantial bottom line income, but with far less stress and complexity than what normally comes with even a well-executed systems and people driven company.
What are some examples of SDE-driven choices?
- Choose licensing over manufacturing – Rather than taking on the burden of manufacturing a product, license the idea, let someone else build it and take a cut.
- Choose certifying over serving – Instead of consulting or setting up a consulting company, where you oversee the work of a team, teach people to do what you do, then charge them to learn and, if it makes sense, take a piece of their success
- Choose virtual over brick and mortar - go online, distribute and tap technology, rather than lock yourself into long-term brick and mortar commitments
- Choose commodotization over customization – Tap technology, techniques or business formats that allow you to create intellectual property once, then commodotize, distribute and benefit from it many times.
- Choose outsourcing over hiring - Hand over as many processes as makes sense for your venture.
A perfect example of this is a friend of mine, Harlan Kilstein, an A-level copywriter, marketer and NLP madman who makes a huge living, but works in an office a few minutes from his house, has one assistant and if he didn’t do 3-4 hours of yoga a day (in the dedicated yoga space in the office), he’d likely make a lot more. But…to what end?
Simplicity Driven Entrepreneurship may not be right for everyone…
I work hard, always will. So, SDE isn’t about working less.
But, I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I’ve proven what I need to prove and I really want to craft my living around a simpler way of life. That doesn’t mean accepting a lesser living or income. It just means stripping it down, simplifying to give me the ability to do what I love, make a great living and remove as much complexity, oversight and stress from the process.
I don’t need to go big, I don’t care about size, I don’t need everyone to know my name…
I just want to be able to work with passion, live well in the world and have the mental space to enjoy what I’ve got when I’ve got it. And, for me, that’s about adding the conscious quest for simplicity to the pursuit of passion and prosperity.
How’s it going to work? Dunno. I’ll let you know as things unfold.
And, as always, I’m just thinking out loud.
So, I’m curious. What about you?
Where do you fall in all of this?
What do you want to create?
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